Sep 22, 2022

I believe that all employers should try their best to make sure there is on bullying or harassment in their workplace. In my presentations I emphasize the following points that are critical for employers to keep in mind:

  • Understand that it is important to maintain a positive and rewarding work environment for all employees
  • Otherwise it can create significant negative outcomes including possible lawsuits
  • Successful companies know that happy employees mean better results
  • Promote a positive environment by proactively sending out the message that bullying and harassment are not tolerated
  • Maintain appropriate processes and procedures for handling and investigating complaints and/or grievances from employees
  • Maintain appropriate performance management processes including evaluation and development
  • Follow through on complaints including feedback to the employees
  • Absolutely no retaliation against employees for reporting issues

Sep 15, 2022

My presentation about bullying and harassment in the workplace is appropriate for all employees irrespective of whether or not they are currently experiencing bullying or harassment in their workplace. It is important that all employees have a thorough understanding as to what kinds of things might constitute ‘harassment’ and what kinds of impact that might have. It is also critical for employees to understand what kinds of options they have in dealing with workplace bullying and harassment.

This presentation addresses the following:

  • There are many individuals out there who are facing day-to-day oppressive atmosphere in the workplace and do not feel empowered to do anything about it
  • For many individuals personal life is being affected significantly because of a very negative work situation, causing depression and other associated effects
  • There are individuals who are facing one or more different forms of discrimination, but do not feel comfortable in standing up against it
  • Many of them are wanting to take action, but do not know where to begin
  • There are employees who are facing undeserved consequences for doing the right things at work, but feeling helpless in fighting back
  • A lot of employees are not willing to report unjust activities at work (whistle blowing) because of fear of negative consequences
  • Many employees are not aware of their rights in situations of this nature
  • Some terminated employees are facing an unemployment hearing, but do not know how to prepare adequately to defend their positions

Sep 08, 2022

I wrote my first book (A Life Interrupted – the story of my battle with bullying and obsessive compulsive disorder) to emphasize the fact that bullying can have devastating long term impact on the victim’s life. However, I also wanted to remove stigma about mental illness. I want to make sure people understand that if you have a mental illness it is not your fault. It is simply an illness that you can recover from with the help of mental health professionals. It’s important to open up and let someone know so you can receive treatment.

For the first five years of my mental illness, my single greatest struggle and obstacle became simply telling someone what was going on. Before long, merely managing to function through an average day became the greatest challenge of all. I was finally able to discuss this openly at the age of 21 in 1997, and got started with the therapy and medication that I needed to defeat OCD.  At last, I was able to change my pessimistic perspective, willingly engage in cognitive behavioral therapy and begin to make significant progress with my illness.

Whenever I make presentations on this topic, I make a point to emphasize the fact that mental illness is nothing other than an illness that can be treated. That’s why it made it more gratifying when I received the following comment from a middle school student following one of my presentations:

Sumi, to be honest, you have been a HUGE inspiration to me. You came to my school a couple of times. Every single time, your story hit me. I have struggled with mental health problems for 5 years. OCD, suicide, panic disorder, etc. I’m slowly getting the help that I need. Hearing your story made me feel like I wasn’t alone… Like I’m not the only one who has to go to the door 7 times just to make sure that it’s locked. So thank you. I feel like your story and your life is a part of what has helped keep me alive today. Thank you”.

Sep 01, 2022

Recently I received an email from someone I do not know and have never met. It was gratifying to know that my work is reaching people who are dealing with a difficult period in their lives. Following is the email I received:

“Hello Sumi. I admire you so much.  I bought ‘A life interrupted with bullying and ocd’ and I feel it mirrors my sons story now. He is 18 aspergers boy who has debilitating ocd brought on from severe bullying at school for a period of 3 and half years. To say that our lives have changed would be understating it. We are a family that move slowly day by day sometimes moments to moments. We can never plan for a future time or look forward with hope as things escalate quickly and exhaustion kicks in. I’m planning to read your book to my son and the rest of the family as I find everything you say is so clear and understandable. You suddenly feel you are not alone and my son is not alone and you are a wonderful inspiration to this world. Please keep going on your missions and hopefully someday my family will restore their faith in humanity.”

I have received a lot of emails like this over the years. Emails like this make my day and provide added motivation for the work I do on a regular basis. I am grateful to this person who found my work useful and decided to send me this note.

Aug 25, 2022

The point I try to make in my book “Father Figure – my mission to prevent child sexual abuse” is that in order to prevent child sexual abuse it is important to prevent situations that could possibly lead to abuse. Remaining involved in children’s lives and maintaining good communications are two important factors.

Whenever I post a comment like the above in one of my social media pages, Ireceive a lot of interesting comments which are very useful and insightful. One person commented that in some situations the perpetrator is someone from within the family. That is an excellent point because in many cases that is exactly what can happen and that makes it very difficult for the other members of the family to act. That is why it is very important that services such as child protective services, Law enforcement, etc, need to be more active in a preventive situation.

However, if the risk is from outside the family, then the family members must work closely with the child protective services and law enforcement to work on preventive measures. The true account story I describe in my book, the possible threat was from an outsider, who had the support of an unsuspecting family member. In a situation like this, other family members need to work with external service providers to prevent the possibility of abuse. That is exactly what some of the family members eventually did in my story with good results, but it did take them a lot of time to act in this situation.

Aug 19, 2022

Over the last few years I have made several presentations on workplace bullying and harassment based on my latest book titled “How to stand up to workplace bullying and take on an unjust employer”. 

The presentations are generally very well received and there are always some excellent questions and/or comments during the discussion period. Once again, it has become clear to me that it is a very relevant topic in our country today.

Here are a few comments I typically make about recommendations for employees in general:

  • Read your employee handbook thoroughly
  • Talk to HR about processes and procedures – about issues such as performance evaluation, harassment reporting, etc
  • Thorough review and understanding of union’s rules, regulations and processes
  • Learn about your state’s process for evaluating human rights violations
  • Be mindful of what topics should be discussed at the workplace
  • Follow union and HR processes if there is harassment
  • Document everything about incidents, witnesses, HR response, etc. Keep in mind that most eyewitnesses will not come forward
  • Do not tell anyone if you are considering taking legal action
  • Be careful of emails, text messages, etc sent in connection with the situation
  • Be prepared for a long battle – everything seems to take a lot of time

Aug 11, 2022

Often when I have had discussion groups about bullying prevention I encounter a few people who believe that the only way to prevent bullying (whether in schools or in the workplace) is to become physically aggressive. I don’t advocate that line of thinking. I don’t like the idea of a child growing up thinking bullying must be confronted with physical violence, and can then get into legal trouble as an adult for committing physical assault. That is why we need to continue to work on finding legally appropriate ways of fighting back and preventing all kinds of bullying.

I had a very interesting encounter with an ex-professional football player. This gentleman is now retired and works with school children promoting bullying prevention. He told me that even though he was always big and strong, he was bullied a lot during his school years and did not like it at all, and that is why he now works with children to prevent bullying. When I asked him if he ever fought back physically, he told me that he never did, because he grew up believing that one does not hurt another individual physically. Yes, you should be tough when you are playing the game of football – because the sport is all about blocking and tackling – but it’s not about hurting someone.

I totally understood his viewpoint because I absolutely believe in that approach. I am sure that when he was young he could have easily handled a couple of bullies physically, but he did not believe in doing that. It was good to see that a person who played a very physical sport as a profession, believes in non-violence and works with children to promote that approach.

Aug 04, 2022

It has now become abundantly clear to me that there are numerous individuals around the country who have faced or are currently facing bullying and harassment in the workplace. I receive many useful comments whenever I post on my facebook page about my book on Workplace bullying.

However, I do find that many of the individuals believe that there is nothing they can do to fight against it. They feel powerless and believe that the only options are either to put up with it or to quit the job and find another. The point I try to make in my book is that everyone should feel empowered to at least try to do something about it before giving up because everyone deserves a bullying-free workplace.

Most larger companies are typically very sensitive about this issue and will try their best to maintain a positive and rewarding workplace. Many of these companies do have processes and procedures in place that allow employees to report grievances and receive reasonable results.

I do however agree that for small companies this may not always be true, especially if the boss himself or herself is the worst bully. But even in those situations it is important to explore other options such as state government organizations. Most states do have some organizations that would be willing to look into these situations to make sure human rights are not being violated. I agree that it may not always work, but if a person likes his or her job, it is worthwhile looking into these alternatives to see if some relief could be obtained.

Jul 28, 2022

Sometimes when I make presentations about prevention of child sexual abuse based on my second book, I get a question about why I had decided to intervene to find a way to protect two female minors from possible sexual abuse. The following are some of the reasons as to why I had decided to intervene:

  • I felt the children were at risk
  • Charlie (the convicted sex offender in my story) had not shared his background information with the single mother
  • He denied that he had done anything wrong
  • He had violated probation twice
  • He was again violating probation guidelines
  • I did not see any signs of a reformed person
  • I became aware of some actions that looked to me like “grooming”
  • His previous crime was against a 11-year old girl, about the ages of the children I was concerned about
  • He was identified as a “predatory offender”
  • He fantasized about young girls of ages about 12-13
  • I felt “prevention” meant doing something “before” it happened
  • As a responsible adult, I felt the need to make sure they were safe
  • It would not have been any good if I waited for something to happen first!!!

Jul 21, 2022

When I make a presentation focusing on long term psychological impact of bullying, based on my first book, I emphasize the fact that the presentation is a unique combination of a number of timely issues such as mental illness stigma, acceptance of cultural differences, bias-based bullying, and mental health impact. The presentation illustrates a definitive connection between prolonged childhood bullying, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and development of one of the more severe forms of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) later in life.

I like to address the issue of mental health stigma because there are still a lot of adults who do not pay sufficient attention to possible mental health issues that their children might be experiencing. It is very important for the children to get professional help as soon as possible so it does not become a long-term issue. I also like to communicate the message that it’s okay to be different, and that it is important to accept the fact that people can be different in a number of ways.

Long-lasting psychological impact of bullying is an extremely serious issue that often goes unnoticed and undetected during school years. School administration and staff often believe that once a student (who was a victim of bullying while in school) graduates, there is no impact any more. The purpose of this presentation is to emphasize the fact that for millions of victims of school bullying, that is not the case – in fact, many of them suffer for years because of mental health issues triggered by bullying. It is very likely that if these students had received appropriate guidance and assistance during school years the mental health impact would not have been as severe.

© 2017 - Sumi Mukherjee
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